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Information on: How to start a public WiFi Zone business?

In this tutorial we discuss the various steps you need to ensure to start a public WiFi Zone business.


UPDATE: Click here to read an updated version to this article: How to become a WISP in India?

 ABSTRACT

In this tutorial we discuss the various steps you need to ensure to start a public WiFi Zone with a strong focus on India.

We have broken this tutorial into 5 chapters to help businesses and entrepreneurs understand how to start a public WiFi zone.

These chapters aim to provide you with an overall technical, legal and business understanding on how to start a public WiFi zone.

Note: If you’re from another country, be sure to check your local WiFi distribution or public Internet access guidelines.



CHAPTER 1 – INTRODUCTION: How to start a public WiFi Zone?


A brief introduction on how to start a public WiFi zone.

SECTION 1.1: PURPOSE

Whether you’re starting your own WiFi business or adding WiFi service to your existing business; it’s important to understand what you want to derive from the WiFi Zone you’re creating.

For instance; A free WiFi zone at an airport will be different than a WiFi zone at a university or a hotel. While the former scenario relies on providing users free WiFi as a utility service, the later scenarios rely on providing a great user experience.

WiFi zones can be expensive and monetization can be tricky. It’s important to set your ‘end-user goals’ or your ‘business goals’ – before you start planning your network.

SECTION 1.2: COST COMPONENTS

There are many costs involved for Internet (WiFi) Service Providers before starting a free (or low cost) WiFi zone. Different factors such as network architecture styles and business modeling techniques lead to varied costs from one WiFi Provider to another.

A broad classification of the common components of fixed and recurring costs for ANY public WiFi zone has been illustrated as follows:

Cost components for free WiFi zones
Illustration showing break up of cost components for running a legally complaint public Wi-Fi network in India

SECTION 1.3: WIFI MONETIZATION

Before you plan or deploy your public/guest WiFi zone it is important to understand the various models of WiFi Monetization; i.e. how do you plan on recovering your cost of providing WiFi service?

Business Model for Free wiFi Networks in India
The following illustration represents how free Quasi ISPs and ISPs financially sustain the free Wi-Fi service.

There are three primary models for monetizing free WiFi service:

  1. WiFi as a Service
  2. Premium User Model
  3. WiFi Advertising Model

We have written a detailed article on how to monetize a free WiFi Zone. (Click here to read)



CHAPTER 2 – NEED ANALYSIS: How to start a public WiFi Zone?


It’s important to consider various factors before you plan the architecture of the public WiFi zone you wish to start.

SECTION 2.1 ESTIMATING USAGE

In this section of how to start a public wifi zone we explain how to estimate usage. This can be done by calculating the the following attributes:

There are many ways to estimate the the number of people who will use your WiFi service. An ad-hoc formula that can be used is:

The number of expected footfalls in an area ÷ Internet Users per Capita

Footfalls can be easily counted with a special footfall counting machine and you can find Internet usage statistics in your country/city with a quick google search.

SECTION 2.2 PLANNING BANDWIDTH ALLOCATION

Internet bandwidth is scarce and expensive in many countries. It is important to decide how much bandwidth you want to allocate per user.

A mid-sized or large public/guest WiFi zone would not work with a regular Internet broadband connection and needs a special fibre optic connection.

A 1MBs connection 1:1 upload/download would cost approximately Rs. 40,0000 and can support 5 concurrent or simultaneous users with at least 208Kbs – enough to stream videos, make video calls and browse the web.

iCalc is a fantastic tool to estimate bandwidth allocation per user based on your existing resources. (Click here)

SECTION 2.3 PLANNING NETWORK COVERAGE

The area you wish to cover determines the the amount of coverage your shall be able to provide.

WiFi is a low range frequency and usually a single router or an access point can effective cover approximately a radius of 110m. If there are too many walls or obstructions range will be affected.

[Also read: How to increase WiFi Signal Strength & Improve WiFi Speed?]



CHAPTER 3 – UNDERSTANDING LEGAL GUIDELINES: How to start a public WiFi Zone?


SECTION 3.1 – OVERVIEW ON LAWS AFFECTING PUBLIC WIFI ACCESS

Many governments around the world have special laws and guidelines and regulate public WiFi access.

Most countries like India do not require the WiFi provider to have a license if the WiFi isn’t for sale. However, a special Internet Service Provider license needs to be purchased if you intend to sell the WiFi service.

Whether you choose to sell the WiFi service or provide it for free to your guest most government’s require the following:

  1. Clear WiFi Authentication & User Verification System
  2. User Activity Database Management
  3. User Privacy Guidelines
  4. ISP License

NOTE: BE SURE TO THOROUGHLY RESEARCH LAWS AFFECTING WIFI ACCESS IN YOUR COUNTRY OR GET AN ISP CONSULTANT IF YOU’RE NOT SURE.

SECTION 3.2 WIFI AUTHENTICATION AND USER VERIFICATION

The user WiFi authentication system can also be considered as a ‘login validation system’ for those who want to access the wireless network for free Internet.

Example: User ID Verification via Mobile Number and SMS OTP
USER FLOW SYSTEM FLOW
User switches on his device WiFi and selects SSID. STARTS A NEW SESSION FOR THE USER, INITIATES USER LOGIN PROCESS
User’s device browser opens and loads login form. User enters mobile number INPUT USER ID
User ID is registered CHECK USER ID, REGISTER NEW USER IDS, GENERATE AND DISPATCH PASSWORD
User enters password that was received via SMS INPUT USER PASSWORD
User accepts terms of use USER AUTHORIZATION
User can now use Free Internet service SUCCESS PAGE

Muft Internet has done a detailed blog post titled “WiFi Authentication – 3 methods for User ID Verification” (Click here)

SECTION 3.3 WiFi MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

A database of successfully logged in users is maintained through this system as per legal requirements. Ideally you would need to adopt a good WiFi Management software to manage your user database.

wifi management software
Example: Muft WiFi Management Software

You can get more information on which WiFi management software to use in article we have written titled  “Top 5 WiFi Management Software (Click here)”.

SECTION 3.4 ISP LICENSE (INFORMATION FOR INDIANS ONLY)

The Government of India has come up with one license for all telecom related services, known as a Unified License. Under unified license, the license holder can apply for ISP license for different areas. One must acquire a Unified License under which he will obtain Authorization for providing ISP services for a certain area. Hence, it must be understood that there is no separate ISP license as such. Instead, one must obtain ISP Authorization under the Unified License.

We recommend you to read the following post: “How to apply for an ISP license in India



End of How to start a public WiFi Zone business?


If you have any queries on how to start a public WiFi Zone business in India or if you need an ISP Consultant, please follow this link: http://muftinternet.com/isp-consultant-india/

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